A New Guide to Engaging Volunteers to Lead New Initiatives at Your Organization

Two years ago, our book Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow laid the groundwork for a new model of organizational capacity-building. Today we’re excited to announce a companion guide designed to help organizations engage volunteer leaders to implement Boomer volunteer initiatives!

Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Facilitator’s Tool Kit contains everything facilitators need to launch a volunteer engagement initiative at your organization.

This new Tool Kit includes:

  • A detailed timeline with instructions to develop an engagement pilot in 6-8 months.
  • Field-tested tools for an experienced volunteer to facilitate your organization’s Boomer volunteer initiative.
  • A complete Facilitator’s Guide in 8 Modules with monthly meeting agendas, group exercises, and evaluation tools.

Both of these great resources are from Jill Friedman Fixler (founder and president of JFFixler Group) and VolunteerMatch. And both are now available in either print or downloadable PDF formats.

Are you ready to build capacity at your organization with help from older adult volunteers?

Buy the book today.

Boomer Webinar Recap: Creating Positions, Networking, and Cultivation

jff_graphicOn Wednesday, March 24, VolunteerMatch hosted a webinar on Boomer Volunteer Engagement presented by JFFixler & Associates. This was part three in a series of web trainings about engaging older adults, and expanded on the topic by specifically addressing Boomer-friendly positions, effective position descriptions, and tips for marketing those positions within the Boomer community.

Senior Strategist Beth Steinhorn and Consultant Sandie Eichberg  focused on how organizational leaders can more effectively engage Boomer volunteers and the generations that follow by effectively creating positions, networking, and cultivation.

Some of the best strategies to successfully engage Boomers and the generations that follow in high-impact volunteer roles include:

  • Create high-impact positions that align with the organization’s strategic priorities.
  • Develop outcome-focused position descriptions to attract results-oriented individuals.
  • Many existing volunteer roles can be restructured to be more attractive to new, potential volunteers needing flexible schedules.
  • Cultivate new volunteers from within your existing circles of influence – including volunteers, clients, donors, and all of their family and friends.
  • Leverage online social networking sites to extend the “personal ask” and cultivate volunteers more effectively.

The next presentation of this webinar takes place on Wednesday, July 28, at 12PM PT. Click here to register for the free event.

You can also sign up for the rest of our webinar series on older adult engagement:

  • Part 1: Introduction and Overview
  • Part 2: Structuring for Innovation
  • Part 3: Creating Positions, Networking, and Cultivation
  • Part 4: Sustaining the Collaboration

Visit our Learning Center to sign up for these events.

Slim Rise in U.S. Volunteer Rates No Match for Huge Rise in Federal Spending on Volunteering

Build Brigade, Homes for Our Troops

Build Brigade, Homes for Our Troops

If no news is good news during tough times, then even slightly optimistic news is a beacon of hope, right?

That’s what the results of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report on U.S. volunteer rates suggest, says the Corporation for National and Community Service. The $1.15 billion federal agency is promoting the BLS figures this week.

But despite some definite improvements — particularly in light of a severe recession — the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

In a press release with the heady headline “Volunteering Up Amid Tough Economic Times,” Stephen Goldsmith, board chair of the Corporation, says “We’re seeing a compassion boom across this country, where communities are banding together and neighbors are reaching out in service to others. It is truly the generosity of the American spirit at its best. The need is great, the momentum is strong, and potential is unlimited for ushering in a new era of service in America.”

So what does a compassion boom look like? Here are the numbers:

And some highlights:

  • 1.5 million more Americans say they volunteered between September 2008 and September 2009 than during the previous year.
  • The total number who reported volunteering was 63.4 million people (26.8% of the population), compared to 61.8 million in 2008.
  • Volunteer rates for women increased from 29.4% to 30.1%.
  • People with full-time jobs showed a .9% increase in their volunteer rate.
  • Volunteer rates among unemployed men increased just 1.2%.
  • Those between ages of 35 and 54 were the most likely to volunteer.

If you only keep your eye on the slim rise from 2008 to 2009, you’ll definitely miss the big picture. Three recent years, including the recession year of 2003 (not pictured), all saw higher volunteer rates than last year.

Where would today’s volunteer rate be without the new 9-11 Day of Service, an historic MLK Day of Service, President Obama’s volunteer initiative, Serve.gov, or the recession? It’s impossible to say. But before these expensive national service programs existed (and before the Corporation’s budget swelled by $260 million thanks to the Serve America Act) more Americans were volunteering.

And yet don’t let these results burst your benevolent bubble. Instead, we can use them to help focus our attention on programs that really have made a difference. At VolunteerMatch, 2009 was a banner year.

We’re working on our Annual Report now, but some early highlights show real progress, including a 20% rise in volunteer referrals to 677,000 for the year, 10.4% more visitors, and nearly 20% more participating organizations. Our budget? Less than $4 million.

Where Nonprofits Fit In

To get more great volunteers, great nonprofits have to get into the mix.  Take advantage of the rise in volunteerism at VolunteerMatch by posting your opportunities today.

Also, be sure to take part in our free Webinars to ensure your volunteer program has the quality to match the quantity.

Register for VolunteerMatch 101 on February 3rd, Best Practices for Recruiting Online on February 2nd, or learn more about recruiting a new generation of older adult volunteers  with our next Boomer Volunteer Engagement Webinar, taking place February 24th.

2010 Webinar Calendar: 13 Great Ways to Strengthen Your Volunteer Program

VolunteerMatch Webinars for organizationsReady to get even more serious about your volunteer program in 2010? We’ve just posted our calendar of free Web-based trainings for the entire year ahead.

There are thirteen topics in all — and the list is sure to grow as the year begins. Sign up today to reserve your spot.

So what’s new for 2010? Plenty. Not only is our training calendar bigger than ever, it really does have something for all skills levels and all program types.

If you manage just a handful of volunteers, or hundreds, VolunteerMatch Webinars will help you succeed in your job and help your organization succeed in its mission.

For 2010, topics include:

Introductory Level

  • VolunteerMatch 101
  • Best Practices for Recruiting Online
  • Introduction to Community Leader
  • The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit
  • The CVA Credential: A Mark of Excellence
  • Successful Volunteer Interview Strategies
  • Single Days of Service: Make It Work
  • Social Media and Volunteer Engagement

Advanced Level

  • Engaging Pro Bono and Skilled Volunteers
  • Egnaging Difficult Volunteer Transitions
  • Making Volunteer Engagement Everyone’s Job
  • Boomer Volunteer Engagement Webinars
  • Sustaining the Collaboration

Click here for details and dates:


About VolunteerMatch Trainings

All our trainings are conducted live by experienced teachers and volunteer managers, and are held in an open format so attendees can ask questions and get the answers they need.

It’s easy to participate. All you need to attend is a computer with speakers and an internet connection, and they’re absolutely free!

More on the Volunteer’s Lament: Best Way to Say No Thanks, How to Follow Up, and Lessons from Our Volunteer Community

In a recent post here at Engaging Volunteers, I reported on the tribulations of volunteer James S., who couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting calls back from his volunteer referrals at VolunteerMatch.

While I encouraged him to be patient and keep searching for the perfect opportunity, I also shined the light on volunteer managers who were failing to follow up in a timely fashion with each and every referral that comes their way.

Why is a prompt “No thanks” better than nothing? Well, it keeps the bruise a rejected volunteer might feel from becoming a gaping wound that might turn someone off from service completely. More importantly, getting into the habit of saying “No thanks” is important because it conditions you as a nonprofit to becoming comfortable with the idea that the goal shouldn’t be finding any volunteer – it should be finding the right volunteer.

Turns out that while the idea that a timely response is good, many readers weren’t sure about the best way of turning down a prospect, and we got some great feedback:

Wrote reader Marissa, “It’s hard to do that when a nonprofit is afraid of leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth…  when people are unsatisfied customers, they tell approximately 8 people.” But she added: “I’ve gotten feedback from people who’ve been impressed with the fact that I have followed up with their interest, due to other nonprofits ignoring their interest or not utilizing them.”

Rachel Eldridge wrote, “They may be frustrated but hopefully they won’t take it so personally. Also I find it helps if I have some other suggestions, agencies that I know take a wider group of volunteers.”

Reader Kathy Campbell, who has managed volunteers in a hospice setting for more than a decade, reminded us getting to “No” is really the path to finding someone who is the right fit: “When you use the valuable assessment skills that got you the job in the first place to point the volunteer in the right direction, everyone wins… If the person has skills and talents which are better suited elsewhere, I’m not shy to offer an alternative volunteer site.” she wrote.

Volunteer program consultant Jill Friedman Fixler had some good tips about timing on rejection. If you feel a candidate isn’t going to work out, the screening meeting or call may not be the best time to share that:

It isn’t a good idea to reject them in the moment as it can be stressful for them and potentially unsafe for you if you are doing a face to face and you don’t know how they will react. Send a letter thanking them for their time and tell them that you did not determine that there was a match. You can always refer them to www.volunteermatch.org to find another option…. This will satisfy most applicants. In 22 years as a volunteer director, only three asked for feedback as to why they were not placed. I reiterated that there was not a match. As for older adults; frankly, I don’t think they should be treated any differently. This is a process that shows respect and dignity, honoring the time the volunteer wants to give.

Finally, lots of readers point out common courtesy goes both ways: volunteers need to be reminded about the importance of getting back to nonprofits that have followed up, as well as following through on their commitment as volunteers.

James’ Story, Continued

So what about James S., our volunteer? Sadly, this isn’t a story that ends well.

After encouraging James to give his search another chance, I searched on VolunteerMatch and found what I thought was the perfect match for him based on his skills and interest. I sent him the link to the opportunity. He agreed it looked good. A few days later I received this reply:

I suppose this isn’t what you want to read, but here it is. Last Friday, at your suggestion, I utilized VolunteerMatch to contact the organization. As of this evening I have not heard back from them…. Little did I know that trying to be nice was so discouraging.

Let this be a lesson to all of us!

Learn More in a VolunteerMatch Webinar

You can learn more about best practices in follow-up and saying no (among other things) in VolunteerMatch’s free Web training, “Skilled Volunteers: How to Maximize their Potential.” Jennifer Bennett, our Volunteer Program Manager, leads the session. The next one takes place on October 20, at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET.

Sign up here to register your spot in this free training.

You can also check out our Learning Center for other great trainings for volunteer recruiters and managers.